Every now and then, a book doesn’t quite live up to your expectations. If, like me, you’re attempting to read more this year or even doing a Goodreads challenge, you can end up stuck in a bit of a rut. You start a book and it’s not quite as engaging as you hope, yet you feel like you can’t just put it down and start something new – it would be like cheating on the current book. So instead, you stick with the book you’re not enjoying, find that you’re not looking forward to reading it, and eventually fall into a pattern of neglecting that reading habit you’re trying to hard to cultivate. It’s hardly an ideal situation, and it’s a trap I frequently fall into.
This happened at the beginning of February, as I got bogged down in Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads. As much as I love history, having studied Ancient History at uni, reading a book like this wasn’t quite as much fun as I hoped. My days are filled with stress and intensive reading anyway, and I use reading as a way to wind down and become absorbed in someone else’s life for a while. This was never going to be the kind of book I’d find relaxing. Here are the things I do when I’m really finding a book hard work.
Sometimes this is all you need to do. Carry the book around for a while so you have nothing else to do on lunch breaks or long journeys, and eventually, you may reach a point where it’s no longer a struggle. You push past the first fifty pages in about two weeks and suddenly the book grips you, drawing you in until you race through the last three quarters in a day.
As much as it feels like you’re cheating on a book, sometimes reading two at once can help. I found this particularly beneficial in this case, as I could contrast the heavy Silk Roads with a fun and easy to read YA fantasy novel or something similar. You don’t feel obliged to read the difficult book, and can just pick it up every now and then. It will take a lot longer to read this way, but I find I’m much more likely to actually finish it.
Sometimes a book just isn’t right for you, and eventually, we all have to accept that. I don’t often leave a book unfinished, but it’s occasionally necessary. Ultimately, if you’ve persevered and just aren’t enjoying it, there’s no point continuing. It’s a waste of your time and energy, and I often find that if I stick with a book I’m not enjoying for too long I’m put off reading for a while. Frankly, sometimes you just have to quit while you’re ahead.